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Measure for Measure Scenes

Scene 1

A room in the prison.

(Duke; Claudio; Provost; Isabella)

Still disguised as a friar, the Duke talks with Claudio, encouraging him to not hope for a reprieve and therefore be absolutely ready for death, since in that case whichever way it goes, a reprieve will be all the sweeter, and death less hard. Isabella arrives, and the Duke hides himself to eavesdrop on the conversation between brother and sister. Isabella tells Claudio of Angelo’s offer, and Claudio is horrified and disgusted; but as he reflects further, and thinks more on his fear of death, he comes to ask Isabella to give in. Isabella rages at him as a coward, and decides that it might be better in the end if he did die quickly. The Duke intervenes. He tells Claudio that Angelo was only testing Isabella, and then speaks to her alone. He informs her that despite his virtuous reputation, Angelo once abandoned his fiancée because she lost her dowry, excusing himself by slandering her. Mariana is still in love with him, however. The Duke suggests that Isabella arrange a rendezvous with Angelo, but that they convince Mariana to take Isabella’s place in the dark, thus theoretically solving everyone’s problem. Isabella agrees. (193 lines)

Enter Duke disguised as a friar, Claudio, and Provost.


So then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?


The miserable have no other medicine

But only hope:

I have hope to live, and am prepar’d to die.


Be absolute for death: either death or life

Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:

If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing

That none but fools would keep. A breath thou art,

Servile to all the skyey influences,

That dost this habitation where thou keep’st

Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art death’s fool,

For him thou labor’st by thy flight to shun,

And yet run’st toward him still. Thou art not noble,

For all th’ accommodations that thou bear’st

Are nurs’d by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant,

For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork

Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep,

And that thou oft provok’st, yet grossly fear’st

Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself,

For thou exists on many a thousand grains

That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not,

For what thou hast not, still thou striv’st to get,

And what thou hast, forget’st. Thou art not certain,

For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,

After the moon. If thou art rich, thou’rt poor,

For like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,

Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,

And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none,

For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,

The mere effusion of thy proper loins,

Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum

For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age,

But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep,

Dreaming on both, for all thy blessed youth

Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms

Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,

Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,

To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this

That bears the name of life? Yet in this life

Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear

That makes these odds all even.


I humbly thank you.

To sue to live, I find I seek to die,

And seeking death, find life. Let it come on.



What ho! Peace here; grace and good company!


Who’s there? Come in, the wish deserves a welcome.


Dear sir, ere long I’ll visit you again.


Most holy sir, I thank you.

Enter Isabella.


My business is a word or two with Claudio.


And very welcome. Look, signior, here’s your sister.


Provost, a word with you.


As many as you please.


Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be conceal’d.

Exeunt Duke and Provost.


Now, sister, what’s the comfort?



As all comforts are: most good, most good indeed.

Lord Angelo, having affairs to heaven,

Intends you for his swift ambassador,

Where you shall be an everlasting leiger;

Therefore your best appointment make with speed,

Tomorrow you set on.


Is there no remedy?


None, but such remedy as, to save a head,

To cleave a heart in twain.


But is there any?


Yes, brother, you may live;

There is a devilish mercy in the judge,

If you’ll implore it, that will free your life,

But fetter you till death.


Perpetual durance?


Ay, just, perpetual durance, a restraint,

Though all the world’s vastidity you had,

To a determin’d scope.


But in what nature?


In such a one as, you consenting to’t,

Would bark your honor from that trunk you bear,

And leave you naked.


Let me know the point.


O, I do fear thee, Claudio, and I quake,

Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,

And six or seven winters more respect

Than a perpetual honor. Dar’st thou die?

The sense of death is most in apprehension,

And the poor beetle that we tread upon

In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great

As when a giant dies.


Why give you me this shame?

Think you I can a resolution fetch

From flow’ry tenderness? If I must die,

I will encounter darkness as a bride,

And hug it in mine arms.


There spake my brother; there my father’s grave

Did utter forth a voice. Yes, thou must die:

Thou art too noble to conserve a life

In base appliances. This outward-sainted deputy,

Whose settled visage and deliberate word

Nips youth i’ th’ head, and follies doth enew

As falcon doth the fowl, is yet a devil;

His filth within being cast, he would appear

A pond as deep as hell.


The precise Angelo?


O, ’tis the cunning livery of hell,

The damned’st body to invest and cover

In princely guards! Dost thou think, Claudio,

If I would yield him my virginity,

Thou mightst be freed!


O heavens, it cannot be.


Yes, he would give’t thee, from this rank offense,

So to offend him still. This night’s the time

That I should do what I abhor to name,

Or else thou diest tomorrow.


Thou shalt not do’t.


O, were it but my life,

I’d throw it down for your deliverance

As frankly as a pin.


Thanks, dear Isabel.


Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.


Yes. Has he affections in him,

That thus can make him bite the law by th’ nose,

When he would force it? Sure it is no sin,

Or of the deadly seven it is the least.


Which is the least?


If it were damnable, he being so wise,

Why would he for the momentary trick

Be perdurably fin’d? O Isabel!


What says my brother?


Death is a fearful thing.


And shamed life a hateful.


Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;

To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;

This sensible warm motion to become

A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit

To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside

In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;

To be imprison’d in the viewless winds

And blown with restless violence round about

The pendant world; or to be worse than worst

Of those that lawless and incertain thought

Imagine howling—’tis too horrible!

The weariest and most loathed worldly life

That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment

Can lay on nature is a paradise

To what we fear of death.


Alas, alas!


Sweet sister, let me live.

What sin you do to save a brother’s life,

Nature dispenses with the deed so far,

That it becomes a virtue.


O you beast!

O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch!

Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?

Is’t not a kind of incest, to take life

From thine own sister’s shame? What should I think?

Heaven shield my mother play’d my father fair!

For such a warped slip of wilderness

Ne’er issu’d from his blood. Take my defiance!

Die, perish! Might but my bending down

Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed.

I’ll pray a thousand prayers for thy death,

No word to save thee.


Nay, hear me, Isabel.


O fie, fie, fie!

Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.

Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd,

’Tis best that thou diest quickly.


O, hear me, Isabella!

Enter Duke disguised as a friar.


Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.


What is your will?


Might you dispense with your leisure, I would by and by have some speech with you. The satisfaction I would require is likewise your own benefit.


I have no superfluous leisure; my stay must be stolen out of other affairs; but I will attend you a while.

Walks apart.


Son, I have overheard what hath pass’d between you and your sister. Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt her; only he hath made an assay of her virtue to practice his judgment with the disposition of natures. She (having the truth of honor in her) hath made him that gracious denial which he is most glad to receive. I am confessor to Angelo, and I know this to be true; therefore prepare yourself to death. Do not satisfy your resolution with hopes that are fallible, tomorrow you must die; go to your knees, and make ready.


Let me ask my sister pardon. I am so out of love with life that I will sue to be rid of it.


Hold you there! Farewell.

Exit Claudio.

Provost, a word with you.

Enter Provost.


What’s your will, father?


That now you are come, you will be gone. Leave me a while with the maid. My mind promises with my habit, no loss shall touch her by my company.


In good time.



Turning to Isabella.

The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good; the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes beauty brief in goodness; but grace, being the soul of your complexion, shall keep the body of it ever fair. The assault that Angelo hath made to you, fortune hath convey’d to my understanding; and but that frailty hath examples for his falling, I should wonder at Angelo. How will you do to content this substitute, and to save your brother?


I am now going to resolve him. I had rather my brother die by the law than my son should be unlawfully born. But O, how much is the good Duke deceiv’d in Angelo! If ever he return, and I can speak to him, I will open my lips in vain, or discover his government.


That shall not be much amiss; yet, as the matter now stands, he will avoid your accusation: he made trial of you only. Therefore fasten your ear on my advisings: to the love I have in doing good a remedy presents itself. I do make myself believe that you may most uprighteously do a poor wrong’d lady a merited benefit; redeem your brother from the angry law; do no stain to your own gracious person; and much please the absent Duke, if peradventure he shall ever return to have hearing of this business.


Let me hear you speak farther. I have spirit to do any thing that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit.


Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. Have you not heard speak of Mariana, the sister of Frederick, the great soldier who miscarried at sea?


I have heard of the lady, and good words went with her name.


She should this Angelo have married; was affianc’d to her by oath, and the nuptial appointed; between which time of the contract and limit of the solemnity, her brother Frederick was wrack’d at sea, having in that perish’d vessel the dowry of his sister. But mark how heavily this befell to the poor gentlewoman: there she lost a noble and renown’d brother, in his love toward her ever most kind and natural; with him, the portion and sinew of her fortune, her marriage-dowry; with both, her combinate-husband, this well-seeming Angelo.


Can this be so? Did Angelo so leave her?


Left her in her tears, and dried not one of them with his comfort; swallow’d his vows whole, pretending in her discoveries of dishonor; in few, bestow’d her on her own lamentation, which she yet wears for his sake; and he, a marble to her tears, is wash’d with them, but relents not.


What a merit were it in death to take this poor maid from the world! What corruption in this life, that it will let this man live! But how out of this can she avail?


It is a rupture that you may easily heal; and the cure of it not only saves your brother, but keeps you from dishonor in doing it.


Show me how, good father.


This forenam’d maid hath yet in her the continuance of her first affection; his unjust unkindness (that in all reason should have quench’d her love) hath (like an impediment in the current) made it more violent and unruly. Go you to Angelo, answer his requiring with a plausible obedience, agree with his demands to the point; only refer yourself to this advantage: first, that your stay with him may not be long; that the time may have all shadow and silence in it; and the place answer to convenience. This being granted in course—and now follows all—we shall advise this wrong’d maid to stead up your appointment, go in your place. If the encounter acknowledge itself hereafter, it may compel him to her recompense; and here, by this is your brother sav’d, your honor untainted, the poor Mariana advantag’d, and the corrupt deputy scal’d. The maid will I frame, and make fit for his attempt. If you think well to carry this as you may, the doubleness of the benefit defends the deceit from reproof. What think you of it?


The image of it gives me content already, and I trust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection.


It lies much in your holding up. Haste you speedily to Angelo; if for this night he entreat you to his bed, give him promise of satisfaction. I will presently to Saint Luke’s; there, at the moated grange, resides this dejected Mariana. At that place call upon me, and dispatch with Angelo, that it may be quickly.


I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well, good father.

Exit. Manet Duke.


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